Melbourne's plan to tackle unconscious gender bias sounds silly, but it makes sense.

Gender bias is no joke.

Melbourne in Victoria, Australia, is tackling gender bias with the help of traffic lights — and the plan might not be as wild as it sounds.

On March 7, the city debuted what is presumably the most controversial change to pedestrian traffic signals ever: The standard male (aka pants-wearing) stick figure was replaced with a female stick figure (in a dress), all in the name of gender equality.

Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images.


If it sounds silly, that's because it is — to an extent. Leaving aside the fact that assuming pants = man while dress = woman is a gender stereotype of its own, gender bias takes many forms with some very real-world effects, such as the wage gap, harassment, and just general inequality.

What Melbourne's yearlong experiment aims to explore is whether or not seeing women represented in everyday aspects of our lives where men are viewed as the default — such as with pedestrian signals — can have an effect on unconscious gender biases.

Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images.

Whether it's gender, race, religion, sexuality, or any number of other factors, we're all biased in ways that we aren't aware of.

These are called "unconscious biases," and they fuel countless decisions each of us make each and every day — usually without us even realizing it. This type of bias is the product of culture, society, and lived experience, and it can be really tricky to identify. Google even made a really cool video identifying how unconscious bias plays into their interview and evaluation process to show how we can unlearn some of those biases.

Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images.

Luckily, there's a way to identify and address this type of bias, and it's easier than you might think.

Harvard professor Mahzarin Banaji developed a test you can take to understand your own biases. And while you might be shocked by the results, remember that it's not a judgment of who you are as a person, it's the first step in becoming a more aware and unbiased individual.

In a 2015 blog post, bias expert Janet Crawford offered up some helpful steps to reduce your own biases in three simple steps: (1) build awareness through observation, (2) use whatever power you have to correct bias when you see it and improve representation, and (3) look for ways you can improve overall culture (whether it's company culture, societal, or something else). She also has a really great talk on the neuroscience of gender bias that's worth a watch.

Photo by ​Stefan Postles/Getty Images.

Will putting skirts on pedestrian traffic signals for a year eliminate gender bias? Of course not. But it does help start an important conversation that society needs to have.

So if you have a moment, go on and take some of the Harvard bias tests. You might be surprised with what you find out.

More
Courtesy of Houseplant.

In America, one dumb mistake can hang over your head forever.

Nearly 30% of the American adult population — about 70 million people — have at least one criminal conviction that can prevent them from being treated equally when it comes to everything from job and housing opportunities to child custody.

Twenty million of these Americans have felony convictions that can destroy their chances of making a comfortable living and prevents them from voting out the lawmakers who imprisoned them.

Many of these convictions are drug-related and stem from the War on Drugs that began in the U.S. '80s. This war has unfairly targeted the minority community, especially African-Americans.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Climate change is happening because the earth is warming at an accelerated rate, a significant portion of that acceleration is due to human activity, and not taking measures to mitigate it will have disastrous consequences for life as we know it.

In other words: Earth is heating up, it's kinda our fault, and if we don't fix it, we're screwed.

This is the consensus of the vast majority of the world's scientists who study such things for a living. Case closed. End of story.

How do we know this to be true? Because pretty much every reputable scientific organization on the planet has examined and endorsed these conclusions. Thousands of climate studies have been done, and multiple peer-reviewed studies have been done on those studies, showing that somewhere between 84 and 97 percent of active climate science experts support these conclusions. In fact, the majority of those studies put the consensus well above 90%.

Keep Reading Show less
Nature
via James Anderson

Two years ago, a tweet featuring the invoice for a fixed boiler went viral because the customer, a 91-year-old woman with leukemia, received the services for free.

"No charge for this lady under any circumstances," the invoice read. "We will be available 24 hours to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible."

The repair was done by James Anderson, 52, a father-of-five from Burnley, England. "James is an absolute star, it was overwhelming to see that it cost nothing," the woman's daughter told CNN.

Keep Reading Show less
Heroes

I live in a family with various food intolerances. Thankfully, none of them are super serious, but we are familiar with the challenges of finding alternatives to certain foods, constantly checking labels, and asking restaurants about their ingredients.

In our family, if someone accidentally eats something they shouldn't, it's mainly a bit of inconvenient discomfort. For those with truly life-threatening food allergies, the stakes are much higher.

I can't imagine the ongoing stress of deadly allergy, especially for parents trying to keep their little ones safe.

Keep Reading Show less
popular